Open main menu

The Pentland Hills are a range of hills to the south-west of Edinburgh, Scotland. The range is around 20 miles (32 km) in length, and runs south west from Edinburgh towards Biggar and the upper Clydesdale.

Scald Law
Southern part of the range seen from Turnhouse Hill
Highest point
PeakScald Law
Elevation579 m (1,900 ft)
Coordinates55°46′N 03°25′W / 55.767°N 3.417°W / 55.767; -3.417Coordinates: 55°46′N 03°25′W / 55.767°N 3.417°W / 55.767; -3.417
Scald Law is located in Scotland
Scald Law
Scald Law
Location in Scotland
CountryUnited Kingdom
View from the slopes of Allermuir Hill, Pentland Hills
The Pentland Hills seen from Allermuir Hill
Pentland Hills looking west from A702
Pentland Hills looking south west from the A702


The name is first recorded for the farm of Pentland (c.1050, 1200) and probably derives from Brythonic pen llan, head or top end of the church or enclosure. In the late 15th to mid-16th centuries, land transfers refer to Pentlandmure and Pentland – documents that also list adjacent parcels of land with such still-recognisable names as Loganehous, Hilend, Boghall and Mortounhall. 'Muir', in Pentlandmure, describes common grazings where the farm's livestock would be pastured in summer; and gradually the name was linked more specifically with the slopes of the nearby hills (perhaps Allermuir, Woodhouselee or Castlelaw).[1]. The name is completely unrelated to the name of the Pentland Firth in the north of Scotland.

Timothy Pont mapped the area in the 1590s, and his work appeared in the maps of the Dutch cartographers Hondius (1630s) and Joan Blaeu (1654). Interestingly, Blaeu gives the name in two forms, in two different locations: Pentland Hill (roughly in the area of Castlelaw); and Penth-landt hill (further south and clearly intended as a name for the wider range).

List of peaksEdit

The peaks include:

  • Scald Law (579 m) (1,900 ft)
  • Carnethy Hill (573 m) (1,880 ft)
  • East Cairn Hill (567 m) (1,860 ft)
  • South Black Hill (563 m) (1,860 ft)
  • West Cairn Hill (562 m) (1,844 ft)
  • West Kip (551 m) (1,808 ft)
  • The Mount (538 m) (1,759 ft)
  • Byrehope Mount (536 m) (1,759 ft)
  • Mount Maw (535 m) (1,759 ft)
  • East Kip (534 m) (1,752 ft)
  • Allermuir Hill (493 m) (1,617 ft)
  • Castlelaw Hill (488 m) (1,601 ft)

The hills span a number of council regions: from the City of Edinburgh and Midlothian in the north, south-west through West Lothian to the Scottish Borders and South Lanarkshire.


The Pentland Hills Regional Park was designated in 1986.[2] It covers an area of 90 km² (35 sq mi) at the northern end of the hills. The park, together with the rest of the hills, is used for a variety of recreational activities including hillwalking, mountain biking, horse riding, golf, and skiing at the artificial ski slope at the Midlothian Snowsports Centre.

Today most of the land is upland pasture, along with a few forestry plantations. The Ministry of Defence have a rifle range at Castlelaw. A number of rivers rise in the hills, including the Water of Leith and the North Esk, and there are several reservoirs, including Threipmuir, Harlaw, Clubbiedean, Torduff, Glencorse and Loganlea.

In the southern part of the hills is Little Sparta, the garden of the late artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Settlements in or near the Pentlands include:


There is ample evidence of prehistoric settlement in the area, e.g. the hillfort and souterrain at Castle Law,[3] and another at Caerketton. The hills were most likely settled, farmed and defended in the pre-Roman and Roman era by the local Celtic people known to the Romans as the Votadini.[4]

About 20 m (66 ft) into Glencorse Reservoir lie the submerged ruins of the chapel of St Katherine's in the Hope. The founding of the chapel is connected with the story of a mediaeval royal deer hunt. According to the story, King Robert the Bruce staked the Pentland Estate against the life of Sir William St Clair, with the outcome of the hunt of a white deer by the knight and his two hounds, 'Help' and 'Hold', being the deciding factor. The dogs managed to bring down the deer, and in gratitude, and to mark the spot, Sir William had a chapel built in the glen.

The hills were the scene of an incident in 1666 following the Restoration of King Charles II when an outbreak of armed rebellion amongst Covenanters led to a small force of badly armed conventiclers being defeated at the battle of Rullion Green. Afterwards the whole episode was (incorrectly) named the Pentland Rising. The incident is commemorated by the "Covenanter's Grave", a cairn after which one of the drove roads across the hills is known (OS Grid Reference NT078521).

In literatureEdit

In Greyfriars Bobby, Bobby comes from (and later revisits) the Pentland Hills.

Commemoration outwith ScotlandEdit

There is a residence hall at the University of California, Riverside that is named after Pentland Hills. The Pentland Hills Residence Hall houses first-year students at the university in a suite style environment.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Baldwin, John and Drummond, Peter (2011) Pentland Place-Names. An Introductory Guide. Pub. by The Friends of the Pentlands, Edinburgh
  2. ^ Falconer, Susan (2007). The Pentland Hills: A Walker's Guide. Cicerone Press. p. 9. ISBN 978 1 85284 494 3.
  3. ^ "Site Record for Castle Law, Glencorse CastlelawDetails Details". Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  4. ^ "An Introduction - Pentland Hills Regional Park". The Pentland Hills. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Pentland Hills". Retrieved 28 February 2019.

External linksEdit

The Pentland Hills seen from Caerketton Hill